Chapter 203:

Nighthawk’s Finale

The Nonpareil of Resh (Act 1)

Harlan and Gwyn were on the defense; that much was clear to all watching, especially Nighthawk. With every movement they made, they grew more sluggish, and their ability to dodge weakened. It frustrated the Needaimus that the fight had taken so long, but there was clear light at the end of the tunnel.

The tides turned more to Nighthawk's favor when Harlan’s ability ran out of time, and the tobi reverted to its usual self and fluttered away without a care. Given the Zenotote did nothing to redo the transformation, the metal giant deduced she couldn’t; as a Needaimus, Nighthawk was very familiar with the limits of abilities and could tell hers had run out.

Another crater burst open in the ground as Gwyn fell onto his back; he had slipped up with trying to dodge. Nighthawk pulled its fist out and prepared to strike the Nonpareil as he held up his hands—his good hand being the only one to actually cooperate—over his face.

Just before it brought the blow down, Rom jumped into the fray and struck the metal Needaimus. She could do little to hurt it, and striking caused more pain to her, but the Zenotote assistant did her best to hit the joints where a good blow might cause some kind of reaction.

Nighthawk swatted at Rom with the arm meant to take down Gwyn. She barely ducked as the massive attack swung above. The Nonpareil shuffled out of harm's way. He liquified the ground just enough for Nighthawk’s feet to sink in before making it solid again. Rom backed away as the large opponent effortlessly pulled its feet from the pavement.

Gwyn gritted his teeth; they were getting nowhere, and he wanted badly to run. He looked to the mayor, who now held a gun and did his best to keep it fixed on Nighthawk. The Nonpareil doubted the weapon would have any effect, but it looked different enough from the ones he had seen on Resh; he assumed it must be from earth.

“Mem,” he whispered.


“What’s the best way we can constrain this guy?” No matter what, they had to escape, and he needed a long enough delay. Fighting was pointless to the Nonpareil.

Let me run some numbers. I have a reasonable estimate of his strength, but I fear you will become severely overexerted if we try to act with that in mind.

Gwyn shook his head.

“I don’t even want to fight; just give me a plan.”

Mem sighed and then relayed the best course of action to the Nonpareil.

Harlan followed Rom’s attacks, and both struck Nighthawk in the back of the leg. The giant Needaimus fell down as the two Zenototes retreated.

“Excellent support, whoever you are?” Rom said to Harlan. The Zenotote scientist nodded in reply.

Nighthawk wasn’t down long and pivoted to face the duo. It stomped on the ground and went high in the air, more so than if the Needaimus had jumped.

“The ability is in use?” Harlan whispered in shock. She had little time to think about it before the giant opponent came down like a meteor. Even with the Zenotote pair trying to leap out of the way, it still caught them in the attack's shockwave. Both rolled on the ground—injured, but able to push back up slowly.

Nighthawk turned to Gwyn.

“I’ll break you next, then finish the job.” It took several steps to Gwyn, then stopped as a shocking message came from Evron.

We are falling back. The message said as plain as day. “Not when I am this close,” Nighthawk hissed in reply. The large Needaimus took several more steps to Gwyn as Rom and Harlan tried desperately to push themselves off the ground. The Nonpareil stepped backward with apparent fear painted on his face.

Abelard didn’t waste another moment; with a loud bang, the bullet fired. It quickly ricocheted off Nighthawk’s face—not going through or leaving a dent, but the shock was enough to make the Needaimus pause. It was an unfamiliar sound coming from what seemed like a familiar weapon.

Gwyn, less shocked by the sudden boom, went into action. He lunged forward and smacked both hands flat on the ground while screaming. The ground under Nighthawk’s feet liquified, but unlike before, it was a deep hole that the giant sunk into.

The layers of payment and support for it were mixed and compressed to be dense, and the entire area sunk slightly as Gwyn grabbed as much material as possible before the entire lot hardened—only Nighthawks' head was free. The Nonpareil, covered in sweat, let out a gasp. He felt like he might fall over, but it was worth it if they could escape.

Before Gwyn could collapse, Harlan caught him and hold him upright. Rom returned to the mayor and helped him to his feet; they walked close to the captured foe.

“Can you run?” Harlan asked Gwyn.

“In a minute,” he said through heavy breaths, “that was more than I expected. He shouldn’t be able to escape for a while, though.” Had the Nonpareil felt better, he might have mocked Nighthawk and kicked the Needaimus in the head; it was the least he could do to repay his opponent.

Nighthawk chuckled.

“Well done. You’ve put liquid deep in my joints to keep my limbs firmly locked and created a dense prison. I suspect you will get very far before I escape.” Nighthawk paused to sigh. In the distance, the mayor’s troops were coming into sight, and with them, at least ten partnered with Needaimus. Overwhelming as Nighthawk was, outnumbered was still outnumbered.

“They are a little late,” Gwyn spat as he saw the approaching reinforcements.

“It seems my loss is assured; I am not foolhardy enough to take on that many Mortals, especially when they are not tired from battle,” Nighthawk said with a metallic sigh, “I suppose I was too weak; my siblings will be annoyed, or perhaps our plans were. Don’t go on believing that this is the end. It is only the beginning; you see, this loss will not deter Array; we already have agents all over the whole of Resh, hiding in every corner. The death of King Whitlock was merely the start, and the death of Mayor Abelard was just a side step, a small bullet point to cross off; we can manage without for a little while longer.”

Having heard enough and feeling somewhat better, Gwyn broke free from Harlan’s support and walked close to Nighthawk. He kicked the captured opponent in the head.

“Shut up already!” he shouted, kicking several more times with bloodshot eyes. The act hurt Gwyn more than Nighthawk, but the Nonpareil was enraged. He stopped only after he took notice of a faint ticking sound.

Mem was the first to react. The Needaimus broke off Gwyn’s arm and simply shouted,

“Everyone run!” It took a moment for the words to register, but no one bothered to argue with the worried tone of the Needaimus. Nighthawk laughed as the group sprinted in whichever direction they could. Seconds later, the giant Needaimus self-destructed.

The explosion was not small, even with most of the body encased in the pavement. It burst free from the pavement in a ball of light that rivaled Nun’s many streets. The ground tore to pieces, and none of the allies entirely escaped. The sheer force of the blast threw them forward, all receiving burns on their backs and being rendered unconscious. Had the encasement in the ground not directed the explosion upward, they would have all died.

The mayor’s troops were in shock as they saw the light and felt the ground shake, but they continued to charge forward, nonetheless. When they finally came close, a massive crater with unconscious bodies just outside the perimeter greeted them—the people who had escaped barely breathing and needing to be quickly brought back to the hospital they tried so desperately to escape.